Euractiv – Alexandra Brzozowski / EU ministers set to sanction Russia, speak with Blinken
- EU foreign ministers are meeting on Monday (22 February) to agree on fresh restrictive measures in relation with Russia’s crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his supporters, having to chose between targeted sanctions and ‘the full Monty’, including economic restrictions.
- The move to target the Kremlin comes two weeks after EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell’s disastrous trip to Moscow, during which Moscow announced the expulsion of three European diplomats and rebuffed talk of cooperation, had enraged member states.
- Asked about Borrell’s remarks, a senior EU official had said before the meeting that Borrell had not yet decided whether he will use right of initiative to propose specific sanctions against Russia if there is no agreement on Monday.
- A group of EU members, including France and Germany, had been calling for a more targeted approach and ruling out economic sanctions, while another group of EU member states, led by Poland and the Baltic countries, are calling for a ‘full Monty’ against Russia, including additional economic sanctions.
- Politico – America Hernandez / Biden silent on sanctions as Nord Stream 2 speeds ahead
The New Yorker – Katherine S. Xue / The awful uncertainty of the coronavirus death toll
- At the height of this winter’s coronavirus wave, each week brought more than a million new infections in the United States. At least twenty-eight million Americans have now contracted the coronavirus—nearly a tenth of the country’s population.
- The virus has now killed half a million Americans, about a hundred thousand of them in January, the pandemic’s cruellest month so far. Such numbers blur in the mind.
- Stalin is said to have claimed that the death of one man is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic. The idea resounds ominously today. Half a million Americans dead—a shocking number, at least until we reach the next one.
- In the United States, excess deaths remain about twenty per cent higher than the official coronavirus death toll. They include the deaths of people who were never tested for the coronavirus, and non-covid-19 deaths that might well have been avoided if not for the pandemic.
- The Washington Post – Artur Galocha and Bonnie Berkowitz / 500,000 dead, a number almost too large to grasp
Financial Times – James Shotter / European values: Poland’s media fears a crackdown
- For 24 hours, much of Poland’s private media united in protest against a plan to impose a tax on advertising revenues, which they see as a serious — and targeted — threat to independent journalism.
- Politicians from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) say the levy — in the range of 2 to 15 per cent, depending on the size of advertising revenues, the type of media and the product advertised — is meant to help the country’s health system recover from the pandemic.
- Many see the proposed tax as the latest in a series of steps by PiS to curb independent journalism. These include the capture of the state broadcaster, and a squeeze on advertising by state bodies in publications that do not toe the government line.
- Some Polish journalists fear that the EU’s fifth biggest state could end up following a similar path to Hungary, where Viktor Orban’s government has suffocated much of the country’s independent media.
- The Guardian / Belarus jails two journalists who covered Lukashenko protest
Bloomberg – Eric Roston, Sergio Chapa and Barbara J. Powell / Restarting Texas’s frozen energy heartland will be a climate mess
- Like a cold-blooded animal—a lizard or a snake—the petrochemical hub that is the state of Texas went dormant during the deep freeze. Eventually, it’ll wake up again, and when it does the damage will be worse than if it never went to sleep.
- Filings submitted to the TCEQ already show significant emissions related to stopping and restarting fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s an indication of what’s to come in a state that’s home to a quarter of U.S. natural gas production as well as half the oil production.
- Events at two facilities belonging to Pioneer Natural Resources Co. led to the escape of more than 12 tons of natural gas; methane, main component of natural gas, has many times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
- Refineries must flare off or otherwise release trapped pockets of gas when starting up or shutting down. While weather-based shutdowns are often unavoidable and done in the interest of safety, they can result in emissions that go far above allowable levels.
- The New York Times – Clifford Krauss, Manny Fernandez, Ivan Penn and Rick Rojas / How Texas’ drive for energy independence set it up for disaster
- The Economist / The WTO has a new chief. Is it time for new trade rules too?